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Tearoffs by Lew Boyd-10/7/13
It’s not that there’s not good racing anymore. Quite the contrary.
After 60 years of taking in the action, the most gripping competition I have ever seen came just this year when the Swindells, Sr. and Jr., toured the Chili Bowl at warp speed, lap after lap, that peach fuzz demi-god Kyle Larson dancing off their front and rear bumpers.
And anyone who watched will tell you what an over-the-top fabulous spectacle preceded Tony Kaanan’s gleeful gulp of milk at the 2013 Indy 500.
So why would it be that the most passion and gaiety of any other show this year came last weekend at the annual reunion of the Pines Speedway in Groveland, Mass.? Why would it be that a retro day for gray hairs at a backyard track shuttered since 1973 would outdraw anything else in the area?
Sure, there are the canned responses: the sad state of our economy for all but the gated few; the ridiculous costs of running competitively virtually anywhere; the unfortunate pall cast over the sport by recent shenanigans in NASCAR; the intolerance of yuppie neo-neighbors that threatens the continuation of so many
What the Pines popularity may be speaking to is a lost sense of community. Even contentious situations among racers were often laced with humor and quick wit. Just maybe in these serious and unsettled times it’s an underlying, special joy about being a racer that has been ground down.
Case in point. Our first book here at Coastal 181 was THEY CALLED ME THE SHOE, the autobiography of one of the East’s greatest modified dirt slingers. Ken Shoemaker, the consummate tough guy, was dying, and he described his racing in a gritty way, but threads of humor and joy ran throughout. Consider this incident, just after he came into the pits at Lebanon Valley one night from warming up Tony Trombley’s car. “We were experimenting with tunnel ram induction, and the linkage was sticking, which could create a dangerous situation. While we were talking, a guy who insisted I’d passed his car a little rough, kept putting his nose in my face. I kept telling him, ‘Just let me finish with my car owner, and I’ll give you all the time you want.’ He wouldn’t quit bothering me. So I excused myself from Tony, moved Tony aside, and gave this guy a good smack. He flew right over the top of one of those dual-height roller took boxes. I figured the situation was over, but sometimes life ain’t that easy. It turns out that the guy was my son Keith’s automotive teacher over in Hudson. Oh well.”